I want to get away to a warm and sunny place!
Ever sat looking out on a dull gray day, dreaming of blue skies and sunny warm days by the Mediterranean? You just ache for blue skies and a warm sun but you don’t want to be in a city. You want to breathe fresh air and walk by the sea.
Catalunya is so much more than just Barcelona. There are many beautiful regions and one of my favourites is the Empordà. The name comes from Empúries (Empòrion in Old Greek or Emporiae in Latin) which means “the markets”.
There is the Alt Empordà and the Baix Empordà which mean the high and the low. Figueres is the capitol of the Alt Empordà and this is the area I am talking about today.
Salut, salut noble Empordà !,
Salut, salut palau del vent !
portem el cor content, i una cançó !
Greetings noble Empordà! Greetings palace of wind! We bring a happy heart and a song!
I discovered this wonderful place 5 years ago after doing a web search for a cottage to stay in at New Year that had a log burning stove and accepted dogs. I have been here countless times since and never tire of the peace and beauty and friendly welcome. It is in the countryside, near Figueres and close to the coast too.
Sant Nicolau is run by friends of mine but I am quite independently recommending it as a lovely healing place to spend a week or two. The owners Helen and Francis are generous kind and interesting people who came over from the UK 11 years ago and have been running their holiday cottage business ever since.
Sant Martí de Empúries
From Sant Nicolau it’s a short drive to the coast near Escala to the village of Sant Martí de Empúries. A short walk along the coastal path and you see the ruins of Greek and Roman settlements which existed side by side with incredible views over the bay. The beach here is lovely for swimming and the walk along to Escala is breath-taking. The Greeks and the Romans chose it for a reason – it is a special place.
Here Rose Macaulay writes of Empúries in her book Fabled Shore: From the Pyrenees to Portugal.
“ Across a sandy stretch of land to the north the tumbled ruinous little pile of San Marti climbs its rocky hill; beneath it sleeps forgotten the old, the original Paleopolis. In front of Ampurias the sea whispers and creams; its tang breathes about the ghostly city like a song”
Rose Macaulay visited this coast in the 1940’s, a woman alone driving a battered and slightly unreliable car in the days when women didn’t do that sort of thing, especially not in Franco’s Spain. There were petrol shortages and she had boys throwing tomatoes at her but she accepted it all in good humour. Her book is still available and is a great read if you love history and travel writing. Thanks to my sister Penelope for discovering it when she was visiting the area.
Llançà and Port de la Selva
I have a very soft spot for both Llançà and Port de la Selva. Llançà is on the coast not far from the French border and it is where I went with my dog Bonnie on the day after my other dog Blue died. We went out for our first ‘just us two’ walk and ended up in Llançà having lunch. I chose a restaurant looking out over the bay – it was a lovely sunny day in late May – and having asked Bonnie what she would like, I ordered steak and chips. I cut it down the middle and we shared it between us. Bear in mind that I am vegetarian and hadn’t eaten steak for over 20 years but it was a good meal and a bonding experience. I believe that meat eaten with mindfulness can sometimes form part of my diet.
Port de la Selva is a lovely village just further along the coast on the edge of Cap de Creus. I stayed there for four days early in my new relationship and always thought it a perfect place for a honeymoon. Lovely cafes, beautiful coves, rosemary-scented walks along the coast and a bay that reminds me strangely of Scotland. There is a lovely walk up to the abbey of Sant Pere de Rodes.
Aiguamolls de Empordà
Of all my favourite places this almost is my most favourite. Birds! And a long peaceful walk down to a wide sandy beach. Aiguamolls translates as marshland and this is a protected nature reserve. At least 327 species of birds make their home here and it is protected only through the determination of ordinary people who fought against developers in the 1970s who wanted to drain it and use it for building. To win against developers is an amazing achievement as here in Catalonia/Spain, developers have many powerful political friends.
I saw a kingfisher here once when walking along the side of a stream. There are storks too nesting on the tree tops.
5.Starlings at Santa Margarida
Santa Margarida is not the most beautiful nor the most interesting place in this area because, like Roses, it is over developed and stuffed full of flats and tourists in the summer. But in the winter months I usually find myself drawn over there in the late afternoon to see the murmurations of starlings. As soon as I see groups flying overhead I stop the car and listen for the distinctive sound of starlings chattering as they roost. For some reason they like this area and so, I do too! Watching them from the pavement, my heart is always leaping in joy at the sight. It always surprises me how many people just walk by, without looking up and with no apparent curiosity about what I am doing. Just a mad British woman – probably they have seen too many of those!
Have you been to Catalunya and explored beyond the edges of Barcelona? If you have any favourite places drop a note in the comments and help more people discover hidden corners of this region.
Don’t forget to share this post if you know anyone who is coming to visit this region. I would love more people to visit these special places.